Thursday, September 30, 2010

Building From the Ground Up

Building My Running Form From Scratch
Over the summer, I had the very interesting experience of transforming myself into a Barefoot Runner.  It is a development in my fitness life that I had never previously imagined, and there was a gradual sequence of events that led to my taking this path.

I have had conversations with a number of advanced shod runners who are attracted to barefoot running and kind of want to try it, but who have invested so much time in developing their running mileage that they are understandably reluctant to go back and start all over again.  And that is what they would need to do -- start all over again -- should they want to learn how to run barefoot.

Because in order to learn the running form that bare feet can teach us, we have to forget almost everything we know about running and start from scratch.

Something I'm learning about barefoot runners in general -- as I acquaint myself with this movement -- is that often they are people, like me, who encountered injuries, limitations, or struggles with running that brought them to give the ideas in the barefoot running movement a try.

I was in an optimal situation to pick up this new running form.  I had been trying to get back into running after many years of non-running.  I was starting fresh after having taken 6 months off for an injury to my foot.

So, I didn't have to sacrifice mileage and conditioning in order to go back and re-form my running.  I completely understand why someone who competes and has the legacy of all that mileage would not want to go back and be like a beginner again.

Building My Singing Voice From Scratch
Well, just like in my barefoot running, I am in the position where I'm going to be, yet again, building my voice from scratch.

I am very happy to say that I have been accepted into the studio of a new voice teacher whose vocal approach and philosophy are very appealing to me. The daunting aspect of it, however, is that it will mean building up from scratch again.

Yes, I am 49 years old and will be starting from scratch -- yet again!  But, hey -- like with the barefoot running -- I'm not going anywhere.  And I really have nothing to lose.

I will add that the process of getting into the studio of this teacher was a personal growth experience for me.  Having been let go from the other vocal studio left me feeling a bit deflated, and for a while I felt a little unsure whether I would be fortunate enough to find a new situation where I could learn at the level I desired to be taught.

But some advice I read by guest blogger, Blue Yonder, in her post "An Avocational Singer Attends a NATS conference" inspired in me some courage to step up to the plate.  In that post she had said,
I do think it's important for us avocational singers to approach performance and training situations with the right attitude. I often have doubts and ask myself, "Do I belong here with these other singers who might be career-track? Can I cut it?" I realize now that I need to take the attitude: "I BELONG HERE!!!" Aim high and prepare to work hard--but once you get in, never question whether you belong in the program, regardless of whether you got in by audition, application, or just by putting your name on a signup sheet.
Bearing this advice in mind, I decided to "go for it" and approach a high-level, well-known, very busy teacher whose studio included high-level singers on a career-track.  I boldly signed up for a lesson with the teacher.  The teacher asked me for a letter introducing myself.  I was as honest as I could be at representing who I was as a singer, and I was delighted and surprised when the response I received was that the teacher would be most happy to confirm the trial lesson.

My first lesson was wonderful.  The teacher asked me to tell my singer's story.  I told the teacher that I write a blog about my experiences of being an avocational singer.  I explained that my defining mantra was: "I've been trying to learn to sing for 25+ years and I'm not giving up -- even if it takes a lifetime."  The teacher smiled and said, "Good for you!"

I sang "Auf dem Wasser zu singen," by Schubert in the low key. -- (To hear me experimenting with three different keys on this song, check out the Frescamari Practice Room post: "Auf dem Wasser zu singen in three keys")  -- I chose the low key because I usually start with the low key and proceed to the higher one once warmed up well.  I told the teacher that I had taught this to myself using recordings and that I did not know German.  The teacher complimented me on the work I had done on the German and said that my enjoyment of that kind of meticulous drilling and work on the pronunciation, syllable by syllable, was going to help me as I built my technique from scratch with the teacher.

After singing the song, the teacher told me that there was no reason in the world why I could not achieve my singing dream.

I walked away feeling very optimistic about commencing on this next phase of my singing journey.  I realize that it's going to take a lot of patience.  I learned a lot about this kind of patience while going round and round on what I termed The Barefoot Mile this past summer (mentioned in this post from Barefoot Fresca blog).  I reflected on this experience in my barefoot running blog post "Patience."

As it turns out, something that may have seemed like a total diversionary side trip -- the excursion into barefoot running -- has developed a quality and frame of mind in me that will be needed as I start anew this next leg of my lifetime vocal journey.


  1. I am so happy for you. It seems to me that to succeed at anything, we need always, no matter how advanced, to keep the mind of a beginner--open to new ideas and possibilities and eager to work.

  2. Peg, thanks for stopping by and for your comment. Your wisdom in keeping the "mind of a beginner" is a message I'm receiving repeatedly these days from a variety of places. In fact, inspired by a chapter in a book I was reading I wrote a post on my barefoot blog called "Beginner's Mind" reflecting on that very concept.

  3. How timely! I have been musing on exactly this, and can say with hand on heart that I am now GLAD of the opportunity to rebuild my voice from the bottom up (hmm, actually from the middle out). Enjoy the journey; I'm SURE you will have fun en route.

    By the way, various people, who know their onions, have commented that my voice is now actually better than pre-surgery - so the patience and taking the time to balance each note and get it RIGHT (rather than just settling for OK) totally paid off.

  4. Katy! That's right. You would know what starting all over is all about, based on having to recover from surgery. I'm so happy that you are ending up being better off.

    Folks who want to read about Katy's experiences as an opera singer coming back from vocal surgery should check out her blog: MEZZODRAMA